In the summer of 1543 King Henry VIII promised that he would send
40,000 ducats, the equivalent of £10,000, to Ferdinand, king of the
Romans and of Hungary, archduke of Austria, to help his brother,
Emperor Charles V, in his defence of Christendom against the Turk.
Europe witnessed a strange alliance between Henry, himself a schismatic
monarch, and Charles, who had effectively blocked Henry's attempts
have the pope annul his first marriage. The coalition of opposing forces
was equally remarkable, comprising the Most Christian King of France
and his non-Christian ally, the Turk. Francis's support for the Turks
contrasted by some with the king's attitude to Protestant reform.
seems to have regretted the presence in 1543–4 of a Turkish colony
Toulon, which appears to have possessed a slave market and mosque. The
alliance between Charles V and Henry VIII attests to
the persistence of the
medieval concept of Christendom (Christianitas), groups of nations
shared basic religious and cultural values despite the religious divides
being caused by the Reformation.
Henry made elaborate plans to furnish Charles with the promised
£10,000 to support military action on the continent. The money,
available either as cash or as bills of exchange, was released in two halves,
the first on 16 August 1543 and the second on 18 September. In his usual
way, the imperial ambassador in England, Eustace Chapuys, made things
worse by harrying the Privy Council for speedy payment of the funds. The
crown, none the less, hit on an interesting solution to the problem of
recovering its money. Henry issued an appeal to every diocese in England
to organise voluntary contributions from parishioners to recover the
amount of money he disbursed abroad. Working from the financial
returns among the exchequer subsidy rolls at the Public Record Office,
Dr Kitching has calculated that such collections raised no more than
£1,903 8s. 3d., less than a fifth of the
money advanced to Charles V. The
English parishes reimbursed the crown in late 1543 and early 1544.
As Dr Kitching himself has indicated, the background to the whole
episode is poorly documented. Previously unknown to historians, however,
important material concerning the king's plan survives in the diocesan
archives of London and Westminster. The episcopal registers of Edmund
Bonner, bishop of London, and Thomas Thirlby, bishop of the short-lived
see of Westminster, both shed valuable light on this scheme. Diocesan
bishops recorded their formal administrative acts in registers, the
compilation of which was supervised by the diocesan registrar.
Unfortunately, the archiepiscopal archives at Lambeth are silent on the
collections of 1543. The registers for the dioceses of London and
Westminster, however, are particularly informative for the opening years
of the Reformation. It is my purpose to consider the nature of the new
evidence and to offer a transcript of the more important documents.